Thorold Dickinson (director)
Network on Air (studio)
84 min (length)
07 September 2020 (released)
07 September 2020
This 1939 ‘whodunnit’ was made just before the war and was directed and co-written by Thorold Dickinson (best known for the 1940 thriller 'Gaslight'). This has a fair bit going for it... well, if you happen to be a fan of football and that - one would imagine - includes more than 70% of the population. It also features then top star Leslie Banks in the lead and is based on a novel by the prodigious Leonard Gribble.
The beginning takes place at the Arsenal Stadium in Highbury, then home of the Arsenal Football Club. We see plenty of stock footage of soccer action featuring actual players from that time - so if there is anyone around aged 90 and an old Arsenal supporter this Blu-ray release could make an ideal present - if the nonagenarian in question can work a DVD/Blu-ray player that is! We then see glamorous blonde Gwen Lee (Norwegian Greta Gynt) and a soccer player called Joe Doyce (Anthony Bushell) in a taxi – he’s flirty with her but she makes it known that “it is all over”. After she gets out of the taxi she is greeted by her new (or is it her real) boyfriend, fellow soccer player Phillip Morring (Brian Worth).
During the intercut scenes the Arsenal team are up against a fictitious, brilliant and unbeaten amateur side called The Trojans. During the halftime break Doyce receives a strange envelope in the changing room which he then opens. Next we cut to the football field again after play resumes, with Gwen, who is accompanied by her pretty friend Inga Carlson (Swedish Liane Linden) watching on. Just when the game turns into a real nail biter of a match, Doyce drops dead on the field and yes you guessed it - it's foul play (no pun intended)!
Enter well-spoken Scotland Yard man Inspector Anthony Slade (Leslie Banks) who has a penchant for theatre and hats for every occasion (in fact, the most memorable thing about it is the fact that every time he appears he wears a different hat)! Initially reluctant to take on the case as he is in the midst of staging an amateur theatre performance with some of his colleagues (the scene in which the coppers – dressed in tutu’s – dance across the boards is hilarious) – he soon finds himself in the thick of a case that is anything but straightforward. Investigations soon reveal that Doyce was a bit of a louse who had it off with just about every woman that looks even remotely pretty and by doing so annoyed quite a few of his colleagues – most notably Morring and someone called Raille (Esmond Knight) – a fellow teammate who had good reasons to have had it in for Doyce. But just as Insp. Slade and Sgt. Clinton (Ian McLean) suspect Gwen she too turns up dead…
Leslie Banks (‘The Most Dangerous Game’) makes for a dynamic and entertaining sleuth, aptly supported by his co-stars. The film is nicely photographed by Desmond Dickenson, with an appropriate score by the great Miklos Rosza.
This restored Blu-ray release is one for the collector and definitely for avid supporters of 'The Gunners' (still a top London football club).